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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ben Gurion University has no excuses

On Sunday, I reported on the righteous indignation expressed by Ben Gurion University President Rivka Carmi over an op-ed that was penned for the Los Angeles Times last week by the head of the university's political science department, Neve Gordon. According to the Jerusalem Post, Dr. Carmi's reaction was:
In a statement issued Sunday, Carmi said, "We are shocked by Dr. Neve Gordon's irresponsible statements, which are morally deserving of full condemnation. We vehemently shake ourselves of the destructive views [advocated by Gordon], who makes cynical use of freedom of expression in Israel and Ben-Gurion University."

"Ben-Gurion is a Zionist establishment," Carmi went on, "which fulfills the vision of David Gen-Gurion on a daily basis… Statements such as this, which level blunt and inciting criticism at the state of Israel, hurt the excellent work that is being carried out at Ben-Gurion University and all universities in Israel."

"Academics who feel this way about their country," she remarked, "are welcome to search for a personal and professional home elsewhere."
Unless Dr. Carmi has just awoken from a prolonged sleep (and a friend who used to be a professor there has told me that the faculty and staff are not allowed to sleep in their offices at Ben Gurion), she has no excuse for not knowing who Gordon was. For instance, please consider this description of how Gordon 'terrorized' a student at the University of Michigan, where Gordon was a visiting professor in the fall of 2007.
In a lecture on November 14th, 2007 Gordon told the class that he wasn’t interested in giving an unbiased academic history of the Arab-Israeli conflict: “Jeremy asked why I would give a revisionist history. And I give a revisionist history because I think it’s true. What’s said in a textbook is not what it’s about.” His “revisionist” syllabus included the controversial book by Sandy Tolan The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East, in which history is attempted to be told through the story of an Arab man who meets the woman who he claims took over his home after he was forced out by Israel. On November 19th Gordon was absent from class and instead had an appallingly biased film shown, on which the class was to take notes. “Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land” is a politically charged anti-Israel propaganda film that stars such anti-Israel celebrities as Noam Chomsky, Robert Fisk, Hanan Ashrawi, and Neve Gordon himself.

In a lecture on October 10th, 2007 which was supposed to be about the historical Suez Crisis, Gordon purposefully digressed at length to blame Israel for the current crisis with Iran. He explained to the class that Israel gained nuclear weapons as the20outcome of a deal with France at the end of the crisis in 1956. He then stepped away from his podium to drive home his message, "You can not understand what is happening with Iran today if you don't understand what happened with Israel in `56." As this comment was charged with controversial anti-Israel bias, Gordon was delighted to open the class to questions. When a student, who prefaced his statement with the premise that he was Jewish, challenged Gordon’s ridiculous blame of Israel for Iran’s actions today, Gordon disregarded the Jewish student’s challenge by smirking and stating to the class, “Ben is always trying to bring us back to the present.” It was in fact Prof. Gordon who clearly brought the class discussion to that of present times. Gordon then welcomed a question from a student who claimed Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Holocaust was “not a big deal.” By first demonizing Israel, then not allowing any student objections to his anti-Israel statements, then welcoming an out rightly anti-Semitic comment in his lecture hall, Gordon was in no way teaching an unbiased historical course, as one would have expected in an institution of higher learning.

In a lecture on November 5th, 2007 Gordon continuously used the term “Jewish roads” to refer to Israeli roads in the West Bank and formerly in the Gaza Strip from which Arabs are excluded. An Israeli student in the large class raised his hand and told Gordon that he was offended by his phraseology and said Gordon was bordering on anti-Semitism by deeming these roads “Jewish roads.” The student described for the class the complete freedom of movement of Israeli Arabs (Arabs with Israeli citizenship) on Israeli roads inside Israel and inside the West Bank. Therefore by calling the roads "Jewish" and not Israeli Gordon was being anti-Semitic. Gordon again simply disregarded the challenge to his biased teaching and appeared irritated.

The same Israeli student that challenged Gordon received a terse email after class that same day from Gordon requesting that the student come see him at his office at an appointment two days later. The student arrived at Gordon’s office and was surprised to see his Graduate Student Instructor (who directly grades the student) present as well. The student cordially greeted Gordon in Hebrew but did not receive the same warm greeting in return.

Gordon then proceeded to berate the student for publicly embarrassing and offending him during class. He belittled the student by telling him that he (Gordon) had been teaching for longer than the student had been alive and that he had never been embarrassed and offended like that before. Behind closed doors, intimidated by his professor yelling at him, and in the presence of the person who decides his grade, the student quickly apologized and hoped the matter was put to rest. Much to the student’s dismay, in the next lecture Gordon attempted to clear his name and denounced the student’s challenging questions as unfair and unfounded, while publicly humiliating the student. Gordon’s Graduate Student Instructors further dissected the Israeli student’s challenge in the class discussion sections, and referred to the student by name without his consent.
Now, I must admit that I find it odd that a student's consent is required to refer to him by name in class. When I was in law school, the professor had a chart of all the students in class, and you were liable to being called upon by name and asked to discuss whatever case was being discussed. This is a slightly exaggerated version of what law school was like. Let's go to the videotape.



But let's leave that alone for now. If any of you younger readers want to comment on that, please feel free.

There's no excuse for a professor to belittle a student and there's no excuse for a professor to stifle questions in class - especially when the class is politically charged. Joseph Massad and Columbia have nothing on Neve Gordon. And Rivka Carmi ought not to be able to act like she didn't know about him.

Read the whole thing.

5 Comments:

At 6:42 PM, Blogger FinanceDoc said...

It's too bad the Israeli student did not bring a micro-recorder to the private meeting with Gordon. Had the student captured Gordon berating and yelling at him, it would have provided evidence at a disciplinary hearing. Tenure may protect a professor from being fired for all but the most pernicious offenses but he is always subject to correction and discipline.

 
At 6:55 PM, Blogger r.shwake said...

It appears this is the same class at Michigan in which I was a teaching assistant many years ago. And it shows the stunning decline in the quality of teaching which should perhaps more properly be deemed indoctrination.

When I was involved with this class we had a professor (American), two assistants (myself and an Egyptian woman), and two game coordinators (one American who reportedly had a PLO flag in his home or office, the other a South African born Zionist). And never - EVER - would any of us have put on such a spectacle, such politically tainted propaganda.

It does, ironically, show what will happen in the unlikely event Gordon is sacked by BGU. He'll simply carry on elsewhere, corrupting yet more of those impressionable minds.

 
At 7:03 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

A professor has tenure. But tenure is not a license to lie, to propagandize and to make a mockery out of the academic process. Its to protect scholars who pursue the truth. One can't say Gordon is interested in the truth... least of all about the country in which he lives and works.

What could go wrong indeed

 
At 7:31 PM, Blogger Chrysler 300M said...

this "professor" is in dire need of elimination

 
At 11:27 PM, Blogger Yael said...

"Now, I must admit that I find it odd that a student's consent is required to refer to him by name in class."

not so strange, my university has this rule as well.

 

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